Relationship between depression, anxiety, stress, and SARS-CoV-2 infection: a longitudinal study

We aimed to (1) describe the course of the emotional burden (i.e., depression, anxiety, and stress) in a general population sample during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021 and (2) explore the association between emotional burden and a serologically proven infection with SARS-CoV-2.

This longitudinal study involved a sample of community-dwelling persons aged ≥14 years from the general population of South Tyrol (Province of Bolzano-Bozen, Northern Italy). Data were collected at two stages over a 1-year period in 2020 and 2021.

Persons were invited to participate in a survey on socio-demographic, health-related and psychosocial variables (e.g., age, chronic diseases, Depression Anxiety Stress Scale, DASS-21), as well as in the serological testing for of SARS-CoV-2-specific immunoglobulins.

In 2020, 855 (23.8%) out of 3,600 persons participated; in 2021, 305 (35.7%) out of 855 were tested again. We observed a statistically significant decrease in mean DASS-21 scores for depression, stress, and total scores between 2020 and 2021, yet not for anxiety. Persons with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2-infection between the first and second data collection exhibited increased emotional burden compared to those without SARS-CoV-2-infection. The odds of participants with a self-reported diagnosis of mental disorder for future infection with SARS-CoV-2 was almost four times higher than that of participants without mental disorders (OR:3.75; 95%CI:1.79-7.83).

Our findings support to the hypothesis of a psycho-neuroendocrine-immune interplay in COVID-19. Further research is necessary to explore the mechanisms underlying the interplay between mental health and SARS-CoV-2 infections.

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